Saturday, September 19, 2009

Daydreaming Over a Map

So many books touching on the Welsh language reproduce the maps of W T R Pryce, which use returns from Anglican churches to map the state of the language across Wales at a particular date. The illustration shows Radnorshire circa 1850, with monoglot Welsh and English areas divided by a bilingual zone, the darker shading.

Now I think that these maps, especially those for earlier years, are misleading as far as Radnorshire is concerned. It seems to me that Anglican churches in Radnorshire dropped Welsh services as quickly as possible, as soon as the last generation of monoglot Welsh speakers had died, if not long before. For example Nantmel is shown as part of the English monoglot zone in the mid-Eighteenth century map, at least a hundred years before that was infact the case.

Where the 1850's map gets somewhat ridiculous is in linking up Cwmteuddwr and Abergwesyn - where by the way there was precious little English fifty years later - into a bilingual area based on the language of Anglican church services. The only language heard over most of this peopleless "zone" would have been the song of the skylark and the occasional bleating sheep.

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